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Engrish

Engrish is a slang term which refers to an English language phrase that arose through poor translation from another language (usually Japanese), or sometimes, poor translation of English into another language followed by good translation back into English. It is usually considered by English-speakers as a humorous misuse of English. Engrish also refers to the deliberately careless or mistaken use of English words in advertising, for example, as "exotic" embellishment.


An example of "bad translation" Engrish, taken in Tokyo Japan in the year 2000.
Engrish also refers to normal mispronunciation of English in a funny way. In spoken Japanese, for example, guitarist Eric Clapton becomes Eric Crapton, "McDonald's" becomes makudonarudosu. Japanese, having only five vowels, and few adjacent-consonant sounds, (as well as no "L" sound) tends to mangle English in a way particularly humorous for English speakers. Japanese uses over 600 imported English words in common speech; such as besuboru for "baseball", hankachi for "handkerchief", fooku (fo-o-ku) for fork, teeburu (te-e-bu-ru) "table", and so on. The more outlandish and humorous the distortion, the more it's considered to qualify as being Engrish.

The term Engrish comes from the fact that Japanese and a few other Asian langages do not have separate sounds for R and L. Japanese has a sound pronounced with the tongue halfway between an English speaker's L and R, and native speakers of Japanese often inadvertently reverse L and R sounds when speaking English; hence English becomes Engrish. See also How to tell the origin of an accent.

Engrish used to be a frequent occurrence in consumer electronics product manuals, which might say something like "to make speed up find up out document", but it is less frequent today. Another source of poor translation is an unchecked machine-produced translation, such as that from the Babelfish service or Google Language Tools.

Engrish features prominently in Japanese pop culture, as some young Japanese people consider the English language cool and trendy. Japanese has assimilated a great deal of vocabulary from English recently, and many popular Japanese songs and television themes will feature a disjointed phrase or two in English among the mostly Japanese lyrics. Japanese marketing firms both noticed and helped to create this popularity, and create an enormous array of advertisements, products, and clothing marked with English phrases that seem highly amusing and/or inexplicably bizarre to a native English speaker.

Poor Chinese English (or a mixture of Chinese and English) is sometimes referred to as Chinglish. Correspondingly, some people talk of Spanglish (Spanish and English), Yinglish, Nuyorican[?] and similar coinings. Such terms are sometimes considered pejorative, as it implicitly ridicules people whose native language is not English. In comparison, English speakers who embarrass themselves trying to speak other languages are sometimes described as embarazado.

The phrase "all your base are belong to us" from the game Zero Wing is a well-known example of Engrish. Another example is "going faster is the system job" written on computer cooling-fans manufactured by a company called Titan.

Sometimes Engrish is employed deliberately for an amusing or exotic effect, just as Han Chinese or kanji characters are equivalently used in Western society as a graphical embellishment. Similarly, in English, umlauts, accents, misspellings, and "o's with slashes" are added to give an exotic look to otherwise ordinary phrases like Mötley Crüe and Hägar the Hørrible[?]. See also French phrases used by English speakers for examples of how distortion or deliberate change of meaning can take place.

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See also: Pronunciation



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